Within the disciplines of cellular biology, a receptor is a protein molecule found embedded in the plasma membrane of, or within the nucleus or cytoplasm of, a cell that functions as a primary initiator of intercellular communications by selective binding and responding to specific factors, including: cytokines, antigens, antibodies, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other cellular or immunological ligands. In general, the cell’s ability to perceive and respond to its surrounding environment begins with external stimulation in the form of an extracellular signaling molecule that binds to a receptor protein, which, in turn, initiates a cascading sequence of biochemical events known as signal transduction. These signaling pathways can also include the further participation of intracellular receptors found immersed within the cytoplasm or nucleus of the cell that bind secondary messenger molecules, and in turn enable a various cooperative interactions between multiple signaling pathways in order to achieve appropriate cellular responses to complex combinations of signaling stimuli. Due to the intricate context of communication and reaction within essential cellular processes, including differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis, there is a tremendous amount of complexity and specificity associated with the physiological and biochemical changes of a particular pathway and the signaling molecules involved.
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